Feedback compass

Do you know which way to go with your feedback

Feedback is like walking around in the woods, it is a mechanism that you use much like a compass.  Feedback does not act like a map, you need to have a strategy and a general plan to get from A to B.  Feedback acts as the minor course corrections that you make along the way.  Used properly, feedback can help you discover what customers like and want, how they would change what you do, and allow you to create a virtuous circle of increasing customer satisfaction, buy-in, and interaction.

A framework for feedback

There are a few important elements that must be present in order to both solicit useful feedback, among these are: make it safe and easy to give feedback, take emotions and personality out of the process, and make use of the feedback.  Other minor elements include rewards, timing of the request, asking for feedback often, and providing feedback on the feedback.  You should limit the scope of what you’re seeking feedback about.  Too wide a range of possibilities likely won’t give you anything actionable.  Ideally, you will be able to focus your questions and receive specific feedback about your questions, actions, or plan.

  • How to give feedback

    Does this look like the right way to give feedback?

    Make it safe – Whomever you are asking for feedback will generally be reluctant to speak honestly with you for fear of making you sad, angry, or defensive.  You need to assure the person that you really want honest feedback, critical feedback most of all, so that you can improve.  They still probably won’t believe you.  So you may want to have them give you written feedback, versus face-to-face.

  • Make it easy – If you have a template that you want feedback on, mostly with defined options and perhaps just a couple of open-ended questions, and provide ample time before needing it back, that is easy.  If you have a blank piece of paper and ask for feedback right now, that’s not easy, and you will get a very poor level of feedback.  One technique is to make the first feedback very easy, a single question or two with relatively harmless answers.
  • Take emotions and personality out – In seeking feedback, you want to make it clear that you are trying to improve, and thus you are asking for a favor of being honest and helpful.  Another option is making a form that is easy that includes such things as multiple choice and scales of options.  Additionally, if the person doesn’t know you did something, you could ask for feedback saying that “a friend of yours did this, what do you think?”  You want to remove the fact that people will try and spare your feelings, even if they don’t know you well.
  • Reward people for feedback – this could be as easy as a “thank you,” a cash reward, or just the promise to consider the feedback and try to improve.
  • Timing of the request – You want to ask for feedback often enough so that it isn’t a surprise, and the more that you ask, the better response you’ll likely get.  The first feedback is always the most difficult, as people aren’t sure how you’ll react.  Additionally, you want to make the time you’re asking convenient and provide ample time for completion.
  • Feedback on feedback – Finally, provide feedback on the feedback to those who provided it.  Summarize the findings and, if you can, and share them.  Inform those who provided feedback how you plan on using it and then do your best to actually implement change and improve based on that feedback.  Give credit when possible.  You can start a discussion about the feedback in general, ask for recommendations and also thoughts about future directions.
Is your feedback framework a jumble?

Is your feedback framework a jumble?

Once you have your feedback, what now?

  • Aggregate your feedback – when you look at a single individual’s feedback, you are exposed to their personal tastes, thoughts, and biases.  When you aggregate many individual’s feedback, you get a better idea of what the general population of your sample group feels.  Statistics can be useful here, especially knowing when and how your sample applies to a larger population.  Additionally, visualization techniques can help you find insights in your data and find connections you may have otherwise missed.
  • Not all feedback should be followed – not all feedback is useful, truthful, actionable, nor good.  Take note that people may have lied to spare your feels, because they don’t like you, or didn’t want to get on your bad side.
  • Restart the cycle – Now that you received feedback, you analyzed it, created an actionable plan and followed it to some result, start over.  Seek feedback again.  Make sure that you recognize the contributions of those previously.  This starts a virtuous circle where you are implementing changes that make your customers or users happier with you and more willing to help you further your success.
Where is your Feedback Meter pointing?

Where is your Feedback Meter pointing?

Where can you use feedback?

You should use feedback in any area of your life that you would like to have improvement.  It is particularly important to seek feedback in areas that you have limited visibility, such as with your manager, with your customers, and any learning situation.  Actively seeking feedback from your manager about how well you have been performing (in their eyes) can really help your career.  Actively seeking feedback from your customers can tell you how well you’ve been meeting their needs and how they see your value proposition (again, from their perspective).  It’s almost impossible to learn anything without feedback as to whether or are successfully learning or understanding the material.

Feedback is a complex issue, but when executed well can bring amazingly positive results to your efforts.  However done poorly, you will miss huge opportunities, damage relationships, and pursue courses of action that offer no benefit.


Readers, what are your experiences with feedback, either giving or receiving?  Any tips or techniques that have driven success?


About Karl

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21 Responses to Feedback, your compass for success

  1. Frugal Fries says:

    I think this is an area I struggle on in my professional life. I mean, I generally receive positive (unsolicited) feedback, but I think I should be actively seeking it out.

    My fear is that the feedback will lead to further expectations, and if I am unable to perform it will look flaky on my part.

    I suppose this is just a lazy lady’s excuse, but it is one of the reasons I am so hesitant to go after it in the workplace.

  2. WorkSaveLive says:

    I love “feedback” or constructive criticism or whatever we like to call it to make it politically correct.

    I feel that if you’re not learning and getting an honest assessment of yourself then you’re not growing.

    Far too often I see people get coddled in this situation though, so having a system that lends itself to truly honest criticism is a wonderful thing (if it’s person-to-person then you MUST take the emotions out of the equation).

    A practice I’ve learned to be helpful is to build somebody up before you break them down. We’re very fragile people and it hurts to hear things that we need to improve on. So if you go in with feedback that is all negative, then that meeting isn’t going to have a positive outcome.

    If however, you build them up a bit and then get to your main point (the “positive” feedback or criticism), it will be much more effective.

    • Karl says:

      And then people thing you’re mean. Lol. There are all type of techniques to give feedback, like “the sandwich method”, I don’t know if they work any better than any other, and I think it depends on the type of person you’re dealing with. Good to hear that you’ve had success with your method though.

  3. Modest Money says:

    Feedback is quite crucial in some areas of our lives. There is so much power in finding out what others think. If you don’t take the time to actually ask, you may not realize that you’re doing things wrong in other people’s eyes. Or they might assure you that they’re happy with how you’re doing things, giving you that extra confidence to keep pursuing it.

    • Karl says:

      I make it a habit to ask for feedback after every project and at each phase of what I’m working on. Heck, I ask what I can do to make meeting presentations better, quicker, and more informative.

  4. Nick says:

    I definitely think honest feedback is crucial to career success. The issue I find more often is that people don’t know how to give or receive feedback properly. They either think they need to find something negative to say in order to be doing a good job giving feedback or if they receive constructive criticism they take it as a personal attack. I once gave what I thought was a fair criticism of a coworker who I supervised. I had spoken with her a number of times and she improved. When it came time for her review I summarized the issue and that we had spoken about it. I also said she improved and continues to improve. I thought that was fair and actually positive – she didn’t.

    • Karl says:

      Spot on Nick, many people can’t ask for it, receive it, nor give feedback effectively. Some people just think their poop don’t stink.

  5. Feedback is very important because we many times how we see ourselves (both good and bad) isn’t the way others view us and our work.

    For me I find the feedback (both positive and negative) more valuable from someone that I have built a relationship with based on respect and trust. And vice versa. If I know I am leading a team and that one day I will need to write a performance review for them, or provide feedback along the way, I try hard to build that relationship first so that the feedback will hopefully mean more to them.

    The last corporation I worked at believed in using those 360 reviews. It contained a ton of questions and you emailed it to a list of people that you wanted to review you. They could submit their reviews anonymously if they wanted. I didn’t find the reviews very valuable at all.

    • Karl says:

      You’re right, feedback is always able to be delivered easier by people you know. And I find it helpful just because I know I have blind spots, that I’m not going to be able to see, I need another person to help me out.

      I’ve done both sides of the 360 reviews. You’re right that they’re not very useful, and can be misused as managers can usually determine who wrote what. Defeats the purpose of honest feedback if you’re punished for giving it.

  6. jefferson says:

    Feedback is huge for me..
    I rely on my wife, my co-workers, even my kids.

    When I have a bold idea about my career, I always run it by wife first. She is my most trusted adviser, and her advice is golden in my eyes.

    At work, a team is at its best if its members are offering each other feedback on new ideas. You shouldn’t have to create in a vaccum, and folks can help you see things from a different point of view.

    • Karl says:

      When I manage folks, I set up weekly meetings so that feedback flows both directions. i like to hear if people are getting the resources they need to get the job done, or if I need to help remove roadblocks. Additionally, I can’t stand places where an “annual review” is a single event. I give feedback every single week. Why would I wait the better part of a year to tell you you’re not doing what I need you to? That’s stupid.

  7. Unfortunately criticism only comes once a year where I work. If you dont hear anything all year you assume you are doing a good job. No news is good news.

  8. […] Feedback, Your Compass For Success from Cult of Money […]

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  11. SB @ FPR says:

    I am actually famous for giving out unsolicited feedback. feedback really go a long way. It improves people and things.

  12. […] from Cult of Money wrote “Feedback, Compass For Success,”  where he talked about the importance of feedback as a motivator to keep you moving […]

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  14. Feedback from those you detest is harsh enough. The trick is to separate emotion from the words. Listen to the words only, and they will convey facts.

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